Finding Oil for Biodiesel
By Rick Da Tech
If you are collecting oil for biodiesel, you want to do it legally. The oil that's in the container behind the restaurant belongs to the company whose name in on the container, not the restaurant. Getting the restaurant's permission to take oil from it is not enough. The restaurant's ownership of the oil ends when they put it in the container. To legally collect the oil, you must contract with the restaurant and have them put the oil in your containers, or in any container other than one owned by another waste oil collector.
The restaurant owner is required by law to have the oil removed by a responsible company that will properly dispose of the oil. There are companies that have been providing that service for many years. There is a customer - service provider relationship between the restaurant and the oil collection company. Understanding that you are a service provider competing for the job will help in building a plan.
Times have changed and collecting oil is getting harder. The large scale collection companies are getting wise to biodiesel and have started making restaurant owners sign contracts for waste oil collections. Often they are multi year and have exclusivity agreements in the fine print. In many places they are paying the restaurant for their oil. These agreements are two way and if the oil collection company does not keep its part of the deal, then there is room for you to move in and replace them. Two areas where the collection companies often fall short are payment for oil picked up and timely pickups.
To be successful at setting up WVO collections with restaurants, you need to beat the waste oil collection companies on service. The big collection companies put large 300 gallon bins out back for the oil so they don't have to pick it up frequently. Most big collection companies are not equipped to clean up the mess that always seems to grow around these bins. Employees are forced to carry pans or buckets of hot oil across the parking long in bad weather to deposit the oil. As a small collector, you can offer to pick up the oil when they change it out. Provide the restaurant with clean buckets to pour their oil into. Either learn their oil changing schedule or put your phone number on the buckets so they can call you when they fill them up. If you can be Johnny on the Spot and be there when they are changing out their oil, then you will be providing a service that the large collection companies can't match. For most restaurants, not having the oil picked up quickly without the need for collection bins is worth more than the big guys are paying for oil.
Other options are to look in places the big collection companies overlook. Churches and clubs often have cookouts or fish frys and often are just throwing the oil in the trash. Think of any place that might fry food, like nursing homes or hospitals. Local events like fairs and carnivals are often a source for large volumes of oil on a once a year basis.
Trade items also are good incentive for oil sources. Free soap made from byproduct is a great trade item. Home grown food is another trade item that goes over well with some restaurants. Creativity is key here.
Often overlooked is the fact that business relationships are personal in nature. They are between two people. The big collection companies are faceless entities the restaurant owners don't know. Be a regular customer and tip. Get to know the folks at the restaurant. It really does help, not only in getting oil sources but also in keeping them.